A Chancery Court judge is being asked to temporarily halt construction on the MLS soccer stadium project.
The group Save Our Fairgrounds said during a court hearing Wednesday that “injury is imminent” because construction is due to begin soon on part of the Fairgrounds property.
"They're starting construction this month,” said Jim Roberts, an attorney for Save Our Fairgrounds. The construction is for an Expo center, which would be the new home of the flea market and other events.
A lawyer retained by Metro asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
"There is no harm. There is not even the legitimate threat of harm at this point," said Lora Fox.
Parking is a key issue; thousands of existing parking spots will disappear. Metro’s Board of Fair Commissioners has said that other parking will be provided. However, the exact plan is not clear.
Metro's lawyers said they're still working on the details of the parking plan. Some cars could park inside the racetrack and the Fifty Forward center could hold about 150 vehicles, Metro’s lawyer said.
"Lack of parking leads to a lack of attendance. Lack of attendance leads to a lack of vendors. Lack of vendors leads to bankruptcy," said Roberts. “They are effectively destroying the Fairground’s ability to function.”
The flea market and other events are protected because of a 2010 referendum, but metro's lawyers says that guaranty doesn't apply to parking.
"There is no entitlement to have exactly the same number of parking spaces," Fox said.
This week, engineers submitted a set of plans to Metro for preliminary work on the site where the Expo center would go.
The permit application indicates the Expo center would be in the flood plain.
That’s allowable, if builders raise the structure to a certain height.
The plan shows that 18 acres would be graded for the Expo Center site.
Much of that 18 acres is currently being used for parking during events like the flea market.
Judge Ellen Hobbs Lyle, who is hearing the case, said she expects to rule by October 26th whether the case will go forward.
The same judge dismissed an earlier suit by Save Our Fairgrounds, saying it was filed too early. Metro Council had not yet passed the ordinances for the MLS stadium to go forward.
Metro is under the gun to get the Expo site built. The city promised stadium developers they would be able to start construction on the stadium by June 2019. Before that construction can start, all existing uses on the Fairgrounds property – except for the racetrack – must be relocated to the Expo building or elsewhere, and all existing Fairgrounds buildings must be demolished.